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20th PACIFIC MACROBIOTIC COMMUNITY CONFERENCE.
San Diego, CA.
March 22-25 1990.
Friday March 23rd.
1. Current Trends in Macrobiotics.
1. Women and Men Group Discussions.
2. Community of Critique.
3. Current Scientific Nutritional Research.
Saturday March 24th.
2. Miami Report.
3. Turning Point.
1. Macrobiotics as an approach to Mental Illness.
2. Electro-magnetic energy.
SUMMARY AND HIGHLIGHTS.
This conference marked the 10th anniversary of the start of these conferences in 1980 and throughout the course of the conference 45 people participated. As usual we opened the conference with the welcoming dinner on Thursday evening after which we introduced ourselves. After the round of introductions we then had the agenda setting session for Friday's proceedings. Most of the participants at the conference were local residents, with a few people coming from Los Angeles and Northern California.
Trends in Macrobiotics.
This discussion was opened by Kaare Bursell who introduced to the conference a book called "The Engines of Creation" by Eric Drexler. This book is recounts the theoretical development of what are called Nanocomputers, which are computers the size of molecules, and 'cell assemblers' and 'cell disassemblers', which are molecule sized machines that can be programmed by the nanocomputers. This work is essentially the interface of biotechnology and computer technology and the research is proceeding apace at various institutions and corporations around the world.
The book is important reading because it's main thrust is to describe what the world is likely to be like when nanotechnology is the dominant technology of the day. The essential position of the people engaged in this research and development is that life, all organisms and things, is nothing but an arrangement of molecules, and that if molecules are arranged one way you get sand, and if another you get brown rice and another you get silk. As far as this thinking goes , all life, including the human being, is nothing but molecular machinery, which, in the words of this book, have "evolved to evolve".
In the context of macrobiotics, the time will come, and if you are 40 years old or younger, this will occur in your lifetime, when it will be possible to buy food that is manufactured by this technology that will look and feel like the real thing but, because it lacks the essential aspect of life force found in the real brown rice or kale etc, will not be the real thing.
Now, we know in macrobiotics how the human organism tends to respond to food that is denatured and devitalised - that it tends to become degenerate. However, in the nanotechnology research, work is underfoot to develop nanocomputers that can be programmed to dissasemble diseased or degenerating tissue in the human organisms and replace the cells of the diseased organ with new synthetic cells; that is, repair the organ. So, even as people are degenerating from eating nanotechnology produced food, they will be repairing internally with the programmed nanocomputer! What do we think will be the outcome of this process?
The general consensus was that the human being will eventually evolve in the direction of a half human/half machine android, and that the human being will gradually become extinct. Now, the question is, how are we going to respond to this trend?
The discussion that followed aired various responses that were all of a somewhat tentative nature and this is understandable because the trend toward bio-synthetic life is only just underway, and we need to think about and discuss it for some time before we can come to any realistic responses. Among them were the drawing to our attention that there are several crises that are also ongoing, including the climate crisis, radiation and so forth, which appear to be converging. We talked about coming up with seed ideas for a cogent response or strategy, we talked about looking for right livelihood, about carefully looking at ourselves - self-reflection-, and looking at different forms of community.
Other trends pointed out that are going on in macrobiotics included the development of macrobiotic lifestyle being wider and deeper than is written in the macrobiotic literature. In other words, people in macrobiotic circles around the country are questioning and critiqueing the narrow implementation of macrobiotic principles in terms of the 'pie chart' -macrobiotic theory as written in the books and the way we actually practice.
Then followed a discussion to wind up the morning session on how important support is for a person taking up a macrobiotic lifestyle. The need for some form of support was underlined and then we talked about all the forms it can take.
The men and the women broke up into two groups and met separately for an hour. A spokesperson from each group was chosen and after we had met they each gave a summary report of the discussions.
Kendall Lesperance was the spokesperson and she said that they discussed the conflict between how the role of women is portrayed in macrobiotic literature with its Japanese slant versus the reality of women growing up in America in the sixties, seventies and eighties with the consensus being that women are generally moving away from the conventional role allotted to them in both macrobiotic literature and in society at large. They also talked about women's spirituality and they also said they enjoyed the experience and would like to do it again.
Don Lavallee was the spokesperson and he said that the men discussed the balance of male and female energies in them, exploring the balance of life and trying to keep on the straight and narrow, and not falling off the beam, they talked about men being providers,; nurturers, head of the household, spiritual leaders, developing moral values and upholding and serving these values.
Community of Critique.
Donna Wilson gave a short talk about the disticntion between critique and criticism where the former is an attempt at being an objective review and analysis of ideas, whereas the latter is an attack usually aimed at a person's shortcomings rather than their ideas. In all of human history there are new ideas coming from various individuals that are written down and articulated in books so that people can examine these ideas. If on undergoing examination by their colleagues and peers a new idea or theory is found to be sound and correct, then these are passed on to future generations.
In this way ideas are given a thorough examination and if they withstand the rigours of the examination they endure, whereas the ideas that are found wanting are sifted out and do not endure. Donna said the macrobiotic community had not been able to elicit any kind of response from the academic and intellectual community; that they consider macrobiotic ideas to be whimsical, cultish and crazy. Donna thinks that one of the reasons the macrobiotic community has never been taken seriously in the intellectual and academic communities is that we haven't ourselves engaged in the process of critiqueing our own ideas.
Donna simply wants us as a community to not be afraid to critique our ideas; meaning that we examine and discuss our ideas in a free and open manner without resorting to personal attacks if we do not happen to like the ideas. We need to learn that because our ideas are criticised, the criticisms are not attacks on our personalities. Furthermore, it is significant for the community that we do indeed openly critique each others ideas because doing so actually signifies our respect for one another, and also has the benefit of dumping ideas, which do not happen to hold up in the light of close examination.
We are at the beginning stages of a 'macrobiotic culture' in America and we need to develop this 'community of critique' so macrobiotic ideas can indeed, if they do withstand close examination and development, make an enduring contribution to the future of American culture, as a self-correcting mechanism
Current Scientific Nutritional Research.
Then we spent a session discussing the latest information coming out of the scientific community researching nutrition and diet. David Jackson introduced a book published by The National Science Foundation on Diet and Nutrition which has scientific supporting data for macrobiotic ideas. The discussion largely focused on the degree of skepticism publicly stated about the value of a macrobiotic approach to diet and nutrition in distinction to the scientifically published research about the value of a grain and vegetable diet. Since the conference two major studies have come out, one on diet and longevity, and the other on the diet of Chinese peasants with regard to their health status which both confirm macrobiotic ideas.
Richard Janopaul closed the day's session by saying that although we have a tendency to feel we in macrobiotics have been at the leading edge of the relationship of diet and health for many years, we should not get all worked up about the scientific community finally catching up, rather we should celebrate it.
Jean Richardson gave a presentation about the moves afoot in the natural foods industry in becoming more environmentally aware, having just been to the Natural Food Trade Show at Anaheim. The most exciting items she saw at the show were unbleached, recycled paper products that have since become available in the natural foods marketplace. She talked mainly about paper, and in producing paper products 17% of world chlorine use goes into bleaching the paper with the bleaching process producing a plethora of toxic waste which goes into rivers and streams and kills fish and water fowl as well as conatminating the ground water.
The most dramatic of these toxins is dioxin, which is also a residue in bleached paper products, which is any white paper product that we use. In Europe yhey are more advanced in this regard and they have ghad unbleached paper products available for some time. The Fort Howard Paper Company has always been a recycler of post consumer paper products as well as preconsumer waste paper products. They are producing only one product line of unbleached paper products called Envisions.
In plastic some are more recycleable than others and they are thinking about putting symbols on different types of plastic so they don't get mixed up. The watchwords for us to become more environmentally responsive are to re-use, re-cycle and reduce consumption. We need to become aware of how much trash we produce - if we had no choice about disposing of our waste and had to store it in our backyards, then we might be a little more creative about waste disposal on the one hand, and less wasteful on the other. Every person in the United States statistically produces 1300 lbs of trash every year.
For example, use the same cloth bag whenever we go to the grocery store. An inititiave will be on the November Ballot which is an attempt at being responsive to the environmental issues of the day, so if we live in California, please read that initiative closely.This was a very interesting discussion and showed that although we are taking steps toward solving these environmental problems we are still a long way off from being there.
Report on the Miami Winter Camp/Meeting.
This was a report by people at the conference who were in Miami for the February Winter Meeting. Donna Wilson opened by saying that it was an exciting meeting because there were several people there who have been to the PMC Conferences including David Jackson, Joel Huckins, Bob Ligon and Patricia Murray who were at this conference as well as Carl Ferre of GOMF and Patrick and Meredith McCarty.
The object of the meeting was to start imagining and thinking about the future of macrobiotics in the 21st Century and the call was for agenda items to be sent in ahead of time. Only five of the teachers responded. 300 - 400 people attended the camp as paid attendees. It was an international gathering with represetatives from Europe.
Donna had three main points to share with us, the first being that the process we have developed in the PMC Conferences is light years ahead of what is the format and process at that meeting. We have been consciously trying to have a meeting in which there is no chairperson, no hidden agendas, and no timekeeper. But our meetings do not degenerate into chaos because each person participating in the meeting consciously takes on the responsibility of being their own chairperson and timekeeper, and we try to keep at a minimum being long-winded and avoid our personal ego mindlessness.
We also have the function of simply meeting twice a year and being nourished by it and we have lucked out in not trying to start anything, endorse anything, not being on a mission etc. In other words we have no reason to exist other than our conscious motive to be involved in this three day celebration and sharing of ideas. And this is has all been accomplished by consensus. Donna wanted us to keep remembering and keep nurturing this process, because it is not only very rare in this world, it is also significant for the world and is an evolutionary step forward.
Also interesting was that the senior teachers back east are wanting to break away from Michio, he is their father figure, and want to do macrobiotics in their own way, but they want his permission to do so. Michio plays into that, by the way.
The other trend Donna wanted to report is the metaphor of a macrobiotic center is over with as all the centers in the east are closing or closed; they cannot be sustained in terms of paying the rent, the overhead and just keeping them going financially. The trend seems to be more toward networks, working out of homes and doing retreats and camps. And the process of networking we must work on and strengthen.
Patricia Murray gave her perspective on the meeting when she talked about her experiences going back over twenty years with the teachers on the East Coast and in meetings then there would be shouting matches, interrruptions, denigrating remarks made. To her, the principal change she was this time was the willingness of the Miami group to play fair, to have a lot of teachers assemble there and discuss issues.
Also Michio said in about ten minutes after the first teachers meeting there things that many people have been longing to hear for many years. It was an emotionally charged issue for Patricia, and she broke into tears at this point, saying she was gratified to hear from Michio that he would no longer criticise his colleagues as he has done in the past, although he did not apologise for the many perceived wrongful remarks, political maneuvers, and insulting innuendos he has directed at many people who have given a great deal to developing macrobiotics in the United States. He said that his intent in the future was to support us in the work we are doing if we choose to ask for it. He said he wanted us to feel free to use his many resources and contacts throughout the world. Patricia said that these statements coming from Michio and where he is was very surprising to her, as well as welcome.
Patricia finished her remarks by saying she thought an important step had been taking toward a new direction and she felt positive about it.
David Jackson then gave his impressions chief among which was that although the male dominated clannishness of the teachers on the East Coast have trouble with the new form of meeting we have here on the West Coast, Michio is much further off from understanding it than they are. He then reiterated what had gone on at the last North American Macrobiotic Congress which have been reported in previous instalments of these reports. To be brief, a few years back at the last International Macrobiotic Congress the participants had the gumption to throw out the normal procedure for this meeting(which was run under the typical archaic notions that all meetings are held) and spontaneously do a PMC style meeting. After it was over, and had been reckoned a succes, in so far as they were going to do it the same way the next time, David had occasion to remain in Becket and converse with Michio about his response to this new development. And although he had at the time of the meeting gone along with it, afterward he said: "This is my meetimg, I started it, and I am not going to give it up". Since then, there have been no more North American Macrobiotic Congresses. I presume most people reading this can put two and two together and come up with four?
Joel Huckins gave his impressions which included that the Florida conference/meeting was a series of lectures which people attended at two levels ("Rookies" and "Veterans") while there was this secret meeting/secret agenda with what he called the dinosaurs on the East Coast, with the head dinosaur, big daddy. On the west coast, since this meeting began ten years ago, which has grown to include anybody in macrobiotics on the entire west coast, we have never experienced the hierarchical ego problems they have on the east coast because we don't have a big daddy looking over our shoulders. Herman Aihara is a low key person and not as egocentric as Michio, and he said that he wouldn't come to it, he would rather fish.
And at the beginning only the 'teachers' were to be at this secret meeting but a lot of people were there who were in fact teachers but hadn't been put on the faculty of the meeting itself, wanted in on this meeting and started pounding at the door. Joel then pointed out that there are numerous macrobiotic endeavours going on all throughout the midwest, southwest, and all over the country which do not, repeat, do not receive any mention and you only find out about them if you happen to stumble across them or actively ferret them out.
And so we discussed these various impressions by some before we went on to the next topic. And a very spirited discussion it was!
Patricia Murray gave this presentation about a new endeavour taking place in macrobiotics. She started with a short history of macrobiotic educational initiatives in Boston culminating in the Kushi Institute. These people got into the meetings and according to David Jackson, by the end of the week the meetings were taking on the countenance of the PMC meetings.Wthen Other than that there have been very few initiatives of this kind and what has been attempted has mostly taken place in other countries.
Now a new initiative has been started to begin a a macrobiotic teaching institution with more of American slant by Bill Tara and his associates who wish to obtain community involvement and investment. The purpose is to start a multi-purpose organisation somewhere in the US, with a facility on Colorado, at Estes Park, 45 minutes north of Boulder, currently under consideration(and which has since the conference been leased and is operational). Pat spent a week there and she gave us a report on her experiences, Michael Arbuckle and Wendy Le Blanc,.
Many of us had received the initial letter and brochure about the initiative and and Patricia feels that this is an opportunity for us to create anything we want in respect of a macrobiotic teaching facility. It will also be used as a vacation retreat and conference center. People are being asked to invest but it was remarked that Bill Tara is not actually investing any of his own money even though he is being paid a salary as Director of the operation.
We were shown photographs of Estes Park and it is a magnificent facility, with a substantial log cabin restaurant, a conference center and log cabins with room for 80 people. The price is 1.2 million dollars. It is a private limited partnership and by you investing you get shares @ 50 cents a share. There are two levels of stock, one for people who are founding members, and these shares get various rights. There was a business plan available for those who were interested. Patricia had made her investment of 10,000 dollars as, she said, an act of faith.
She said that the downside she could see was that if people didn't come together and unite behind it, and if the past distrust and suspicion that has been the norm in macrobiotics were to prevail, then the effort would be wasted.
Then a letter was read to the members of the PMC from Bill Tara. This letter was written in response to the response he had received after sending out the initial letter and brochure. Now, the general response of people was fairly negative because it appeared to many of us that the initial letter and brochure about Turning Point was to get us to sponsor what were referrred to as "timely and powerful seminars" on a new direction for macrobiotics in America and America as a whole. When we got this letter in Oakland, the general impression was, as far as we were concerned, that this whole endeavour was a fait accompli, and we were being asked to rubber stamp it without knowing anything about it, and to sponsor seminars which were really attempts to sell people in our communities on it so that Bill Tara and his associates could raise money for it.
The above is the context in which Bill Tara had written to the PMC. Kaare Bursell critiqued the letter by saying that Bill Tara did not in fact respond to the initial criticism and negative responses which boiled down to the fact that we were being asked to support an endeavour in which we had no input, no participation in the process involved in putting it together. So, this was simply an attempt to get us to invest in something which may or may not get off the ground, but whether it did or not was irrelevant because it did not appear that anyone involved was interested in getting our feedback other than whether we would give them money, or facilitate money for them, or not.
Donna Wilson said that what she found offensive was that prior to the Miami Meeting there was this letter from Sandy Pukel inviting people who were going to the meeting to submit agenda items under the heading of "where do we want to macrobiotics to be going in the 21st Century, what do we want in the future of macrobiotics" and she made the effort to put what she considered to be significant topics for discussion. However, when she got to Miami there was a hidden agenda in which, it turned out, that the vision, the decision and the direction of macrobiotics for the future had already been decided upon !
This involves four people, Bill Tara, Mario Binetti, Michael Arbuckle and Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle. And this was Turning Point. At no point was anyone asked, at Miami, what is your vision of the future of macrobiotics - no, we were asked to invest our money and that was it.
Joel Huckins was offended by the fact that the people at Turning Point were simply trying to raise money for their particular enterprise but they weren't up front about it. And that the implication was that if you were truly macrobiotic you would see the beauty of this vision and have no hesitation in supporting it and if you didn't support it, well, you couldn't possibly be macrobiotic.
Muriel Jenckins suggested that Bill Tara come to the next meeting so that we can have a real dialogue and discussion about Turning Point, or as it is now called as these minutes are being written, Nova Institute. Richard Janopaul pointed out that the letter Bill wrote to the PMC goes " it is ironic that the very intention of our letter to move beyond old separations has, for some, produced the opposite effect. For me this has produced another opportunity to..." and Richard said that he was expecting the word 'dialogue' here, but Bill didn't say that. What he wrote was " an opportunity to restate 'our' vision" whereas Turning Point/Nova Institute is his and his colleagues vision and the underhand aspect of it is that this 'our' is actually the royal 'we' and we, the people who are being asked to support it, don't have any say in the vision. Now, Richard goes on, in the PMC meetings we have been involved in the process of developing dialogue and Turning Point has not been developed out of dialogue with us. The present discussion is thus premature, not wrong or right, it is premature because it hasn't grown out of dialogue and our process. The letter from Turning Point is a mandate to us and what we are saying here today is our response to the mandate, because we are not about mandate, we are about dialogue. And if the vision is accurate and true and the thing that we want to invest in, it will survive and grow out of the dialogue and it may actually undergo a metamorphosis as a result of the process of dialogue.
David Jackson received the letter and the message he got was that this was an endeavour that may or may not pan out but that in the interim it would be a great way for two or three families to make a living and be who they needed to be. But David had real qualms about Bill Tara, which he voiced to Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle, which is that, as he put it, is Bill Tara willing to come down and hang out for a week and wash the dishes and clean the toilets. And despite these qualms, David would still like to enter into dialogue.
So, with regard to questions about Bill Tara and his behaviour, Kaare Bursell related the following. The original letter had been sent out teachers, counsellors, center directors with the purpose of getting these people to sponsor the seminars which were the fund raising tool for Turning Point. Joel Huckins was in LA for the Natural Foods Convention a couple of weeks before the PMC conference. Now, Joel is an individual who owns and directs a center which could sponsor and facilitate a week-end seminar. Bill Tara was also at the convention, and he saw Joel, and when Joel asked him what he was doing there, he received an evasive answer.
Donna said that she also received the letter and when it came to talk about the fee structure for him to do something in Woodland Hills, it was way out of order for Woodland Hills. And this seminar in Woodland Hills would raise money for Turning Point which we would have no way to participate in. So her question was, Bill, why woud we want to do that, when are we going to work together? Also this is not her vision of macrobiotics in the 21st Century.
Joel Huckins said that the attempt was being made out of standard ways of how to set up seminars, how to raise money, how to start a corporation and we are not geared to that; it is overkilling us, running over us with this verbiage. He saw some people wanting to buy a property and wanted people to come and spend vacations there and families go there, with which he had no trouble, and yet we are confused by all the verbiage.
Joyce Kenny talked about the legal aspects of a limited partnership, which means that there is a managing partner, and the managing partner has the final say in the running of the enterprise. The limited partnership means 35 investors. This type of set up is done in order to not be accountable.
Macrobiotics with respect to Mental Illness.
Kendall L'Esperance presented this topic at her first time at the conference. She comes out of personal experience with conventional, medical approaches. She related briefly the horrifying experiences she had gone through in the medical system. And she asked if it were possible for a person experiencing mental/emotional disturbances to be able to correct or at least ameliorate them through the practice of a macrobiotic way of eating and living.
Then participants gave their opinion in regard of their own experiences in practicing the macrobiotic way of life. The general consensus was that it is possible for a person who has gone through years of heavy medication to eventually be able to rid themselves of chronic mental and emotional disturbances. However, in the experience of the various counsellors present it required a great deal of patience and support of the person and consistent practice both in terms of eating and in terms of psychological work.
It was suggested that their are multiple possible co-factors at work in the development of mental illness including diet, family configurations as we are growing up, attitudinal aspects, cognitive aspects meaning world view and how we picture ourselves in the world, and they all need to be addressed.
Carlos Richardson gave this presentation which he said grew out of reading three long articles in the New Yorker magazine earlier in the year. The sources of e-m fields are numerous including power lines, microwaves, television sets, calculators, electric blankets, computer displays. What has been found in the research so far, and this happens even at low levels of radiation, is interference with calcium ion transport in the cell which causes degeneration of cell function. It appears that if a person is relatively healthy they can withstand the effects of this radiation better than someone whose immune system has been compromised. One can buy a low-level e-m radiation meter that gives a reading of any source or suspected source of e-m energy. This was a long discussion to air the topic and keep us abreast of developments in the field.